How To Succeed On The HSPT

The High School Placement Test (HSPT) is a standardized admissions exam used by many Catholic high schools across the United States.  Eighth graders take the comprehensive entrance test for placement in the ninth grade.  Even if students have received their elementary and middle school education at a Catholic institution, they are still required to take the exam if they wish to continue their learning at a Catholic high school.  The Scholastic Testing Service, a company that provides assessment materials, designs and administers the annual exam.  

 Because courses, teaching methods and styles, and evaluation standards differ from one school to another, a standardized exam such as the HSPT creates a uniform process to effectively evaluate applicants.  HSPT results assist admissions committees in determining if a potential student can thrive under an often-demanding workload, and possesses the necessary academic background and core subject skills (such as in critical reading or math) to succeed.  Combined with transcripts and teacher recommendations, HSPT scores present a detailed profile of a student’s strengths and weaknesses, and their readiness for a rigorous high school environment.  Catholic schools have been using the HSPT as part of the admissions process for more than 50 years. 

 The HSPT evaluates language, reading, and mathematics proficiency through multiple choice questions. Five categories are administered over two and a half hours.  Students receive 16 minutes to answer the 60 questions in the Verbal Skills portion.  The Quantitative Skills category is made up of 52 questions and lasts half an hour.  The Reading section includes 62 questions and lasts 25 minutes.  There are 64 questions in the 45-minute Math section.  The Language portion is comprised of 60 questions over 25 minutes.  Incorrect responses are not penalized, so it is best to take a guess than leave a question unanswered.

 The HSPT is administered annually in the late fall, usually in November or December.  In order to take the test, students must register with the high school to which they are applying.  Results can be sent to multiple schools.  HSPT scores will fall between 200 and 800.  High school admissions committees each have their own criteria for test results to be considered adequate. 

 Educators and admissions personnel want to insure incoming students are prepared for an academically-intensive environment, and HSPT scores are one of the main ways they evaluate candidates.  Thus, while HSPT results aren’t the only component of an application package, they are a major influence on a student’s acceptance status. 

 If your child hasn’t taken a standardized test before, it may be best to take several practice exams to perfect his or her test-taking skills, and review the topics in a timed setting.  Almost all material on the HSPT should be somewhat familiar, since questions are derived from standard middle and elementary classroom exercises.  Consider using an expert tutor who will teach your child testing strategies and problem-solving tips so they’ll succeed on test day. 

 The admissions game at private high schools can be tough.  The desirability of a Catholic education, the rigorous, college-preparatory environment, and the competitive admissions process almost always insures that there are more applicants than open spots.  Getting a top score on the HSPT increases your child’s chances of receiving a welcome letter in the mail.